Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Orchestra's stunning new concerto gives nod to classic jazz of Fifties

Review: Ulster Orchestra at the Ulster Hall, Belfast

By Alf McCreary

When the world premiere of a concerto is announced nowadays, some people wince in case it is another of those technically brilliant pieces which turns out to be utterly boring.

Thankfully, this was not the case with Giancarlo Castro's Concerto, titled Stunning Trumpet, premiered in the Ulster Hall by the Ulster Orchestra and its music director Rafael Payare to stunning effect.

This concerto was played with remarkable skill and gusto on not one, but four trumpets (though not at the same time) by soloist Pacho Flores.

He has deep roots in Latin America, and he and Payare played together in the well-known Simon Bolivar Orchestra in Venezuela. The music of Castro's new Trumpet Concerto is deeply embedded in the Latin American, jazz and cinema tradition, and it is captivating from start to finish.

The concerto is bursting with many different melodies and rhythms, and for most of the piece the Ulster Orchestra played like a Fifties Big Band swinging its way through a major jazz concert.

One hopes that Stunning Trumpet will soon be on CD to enrich many a car journey. For good measure, the soloist underlined his range by playing Neruda's delightful 18th century Trumpet Concerto, and ended in the Latin-American idiom with Piazzolla's charming Winter in Buenos Aires.

The wide-ranging concert began with the wistful and dreamlike Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune, to mark the centenary of the death of Debussy, who also wrote the celebrated La Mer - even if he was unable to swim.

The warmly-received concert ended with a riveting performance of the Hungarian Bela Bartok's orchestral showpiece Concerto for Orchestra, a work of genius written in only eight weeks by the composer who was suffering from leukaemia and died tragically just two years later at the age of 64.

Maestro Payare has been appointed as full-time music director of the San Diego Symphony from the autumn of 2019, so catch this world-class young conductor in Belfast while you can.

Belfast Telegraph


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